One Tough Bastard By Adam Howe
A Book Review by Thomas Joyce
Adam Howe enjoys taking an oddball assortment of characters and placing them in different levels of strange and often humorous situations. Readers of his other stories featuring down-on-his-luck boxer turned strip-club bouncer Reggie Levine, or Scapegoat (co-authored with indie press heavyweight James Newman) in which a trip to Wrestlemania III takes a demonic turn for the worse, will have some idea of what to expect. But no amount of preparation will adequately equip you for the force of nature that is Shane Moxie.
Howe’s monstrous leading man, evoking less sympathy than Frankenstein’s creature, is a poster-child for the excess of 80s and 90s Hollywood action cinema. He wields toxic masculinity like some kind of contemptible superpower and, if his ego were any larger, his head would be orbited by its very own moon. This cosmic metaphor doesn’t do him justice; he’d be the star at the centre of his very own galaxy. He lists Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Damme et al. as his contemporaries, and not always in a positive way, often badmouthing the “Muscles from Brussels”. He views women purely as objects of desire, thinks very little of minority groups (in his case, anyone who identifies as anything other than straight white male) and thinks highly of Trump’s presidential capacity, if not of the man himself. It would take a monumentally villainous antagonist to paint Moxie in a favourable light.
Enter Moxie’s boyhood hero Klaus Kaiser. Styled in appearance on Arnold Schwarzenegger and boasting a similar rise to fame (with an impressive bodybuilding career followed by starring roles in movies like Krone the Berserker and The Obliterator), Kaiser’s career may mirror Arnie’s – including political aspirations for the highest office in the land – but he is far more sinister. With Brigitte Nielsen-lookalike Malina Kaminski at his side, his dark shadow engulfs Moxie and propels the story of One Tough Bastard. While the story begins with Moxie and an ill-prepared publicity stunt, he soon finds himself thrown together with his co-star from Copsicle, his greatest box office success. In that movie, Moxie played a caveman detective who is defrosted in late 80’s America to take down his nemesis with the aid of his ape partner, played by phenomenal ape thespian Duke.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Duke is an ape of higher-than-normal intelligence (even higher-than-Moxie intelligence) who captured the hearts of America’s moviegoers with his comedic timing and dramatic flair. When his human lover Lorna uncovers a nefarious criminal network and pays the ultimate price, he finds himself targeted, along with the hapless Moxie, leading to an 80s-style buddy comedy movie story that pays homage while simultaneously taking well-aimed pot-shots at the absurd situations. Explosive action sequences that would make Hollywood financiers hide their wallets, over-the-top villainy and bloody good deaths (emphasis on the “bloody”) are all present, and fair game for Howe’s wonderful propensity for humorous set-pieces and one-liners. The list of Moxie’s admirable qualities maybe easily counted on one hand, but the man is really just a buffoon, a clown whose sole function is crash test dummy for the preposterous ideas that swirl around in the gonzo imagination of this incredibly talented author.
Which brings me to the one warning I will offer for potential readers; Moxie is a man culturally hung up on the 80s. The movie Copsicle makes for a fitting metaphor for One Tough Bastard; a caveman struggling to fit in in 20th century America, not unlike Moxie, who actually thinks much like a stereotypical caveman. He is a man stuck in the past, and it often comes out in offensive jokes or comments. But these are merely there to offer insight into the mind of a buffoon, as previously stated. The way Howe pokes fun at such a character, while pitting him against a truly evil villain, requires a certain sense of humour. Fans of Tijuana Donkey Showdown or his novella Damn Dirty Apes will be thrilled with this latest offering, as will fans of quick-witted dialogue and sharp-tongued one-liners. Many are often at the expense of Moxie, and there is an argument to be made that Duke is the true star of the story (just look at that incredible cover by master of graphic art Matthew Revert), the ape who almost manages to rub off some of that charm on big, dumb animal Moxie.
For those readers of a certain age who grew up on a diet of action-comedy videos like Lethal Weapon, 48 Hours, and Tango & Cash, sat too close to their “massive” 32-inch CRT television sets (I’m carbon-dating myself, kids. Look it up), this book will provide a rip-roaring reading experience full of awesome action and laugh-out-loud banter delivered in Howe’s unique and masterful style. However, the jury is still out on the guarantee of becoming a sexual tyrannosaurus.